Bots – ready for prime time?
When you hear a smart agency has been asked to build a Chatbot for a supermarket you know Bots are a thing. But like anything you need a good idea to start with and you need to execute well.
The FT thinks - and we agree – that most so far are disappointing. Some of that is down to a poor idea and more is down to poor execution. Essentially the Bot is acting as in interface to lots of content that can be helpful. In the old days the only way to access this was a set of options, each leading to another set of options. The sort of thing that still happens with call centres – press one for new customers and two for existing etc. Many bots work in the same way
But Google came along and gave us search, so we didn’t have to wade through menus – and good bots work in this way. AI and deep linking mean Chat can be a quick way to get things done. And as Voice becomes more and more viable as a way to interact, the best bots start to feel magical. The founder of Basecamp makes the excellent point that we should all be developing for where the platforms are going – the huge advances in capabilities of smartphones means much more can be done. And what worked well for an iPhone 5 could be so much more powerful if developed for the iPhone 7.
The best companies keep improving their products and services to match the advances in capability of the smartphones. And this applies to Apps and Mobile sites as well as Bots. If you don’t innovate and don't use the new features, you risk looking pedestrian as others deliver magical experiences.
For example mobile sites can be much faster, and as your customer experience this, yours will seem even slower than it is. Apple Pay and Android Pay are speeding up the checkout process for many and driving better conversion. Many apps lets you take a photo of your credit card and use OCR to add the number to a checkout – saving pecking in 16 digits with fat fingers. If you don’t offer these options will your customers persevere with you – or will they choose to use someone who makes their lives easier?
The Google messaging app Allo is now available. Lots of promise and it’s a key area for Google as they seek to get traction in this huge sector – on some metrics messaging apps now have more users than social apps
But getting this area right is hard and there is some push back on the product experience. But as Google push into hardware more – with new smartphones likely next week – this could mature into a more significant competitor for the established messaging apps. And their Voice experience will be important here – Google say 20% of mobile searches are voice input rather than text.
As Google go deeper into some sectors like travel we can see how messaging could better connect Google services. For a while now Google have offered a good flight comparison tool within the search results –where you can look also look at prices. Now they have a service offering travel advice – Google Trips. Through our work on RCKSCK we know this is an area with great potential and the ability of Google to mine Gmail for travel destinations and dates, gives them a good starting point. Delivering real value is less easy.
At long last the music industry is seeing some revenue growth – driven by streaming. They are still some way south of the revenues from the height of CD sales in the late 90s though - the US market is now roughly half the size it was then.
The common view is that Apple and Spotify have won the streaming wars – but we still believe the rest of GAFA harbour ambitions here and it is premature to discount Google and Amazon – or Facebook.
Whilst the revenue may have declined, the cultural impact of music is still strong and that drives sharing and attention, so can be an Anchor for all four.
Twitter & Sports
The latest tech experiment with content is the NFL deal with Twitter. They were chosen over other bidders like Amazon and their new TV apps enabled the service launch last Thursday. With 2.1 million streams it seems to have been quite successful – although on a minute by minute basis they averaged 243k viewers whilst the TV coverage got 48m who watched at least 1 minute.
Whilst the quantity may not be there the quality seemed to be - VC Fred Wilson was one of many very impressed with the service and can see ways it can be further improved. More to come from GAFA here.
At Dmexco the head Strategy at Snapchat was pretty disparaging about video ads without sound - saying they are just moving banners. This is a clear pop at Facebook - where one would guess Snapchat think they can best lure ad money away.
We see well captioned video as a good format and ads that require sound are an issue when most desktop and mobile experiences are sound free. Snapchat, like YouTube, is an environment where sound is usually on and that is an advantage for some brands. As ever, video for mobile needs to be bespoke for each platform and one size doesn’t fit all. Using a TV ad is always a terrible idea. And if you think bespoke creative for – say Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook - is too expensive consider this; If your creative doesn’t work really well on a platform, the media budget is wasted. Or to put it another way; Investing in great creative is the best way to make your media spend more effective
New tweaks to both Chrome and Safari mobile browsers will soon make it easier for publishers to play video content automatically. So the question of audio becomes a little more urgent. Whichever you choose, the issue of viewability comes up – what are brands actually paying for? When we do our Video workshops the disparity in what different platforms treat as a view always shocks people. And few think the IAB definition of 1 second makes much sense.
The other emerging issue around autoplay video is the mobile data used – the consumer picks up the tab for this data whether they choose to view or not. With some research suggesting adblocking is partly driven by a desire to save money – or rather to preserve mobile data for things people want to do – this is going to become a significant issue.
A new US study has shows that Amazon now have a warehouse or delivery station with 20miles of 44% of the US population. 5 years ago it was around 5%. This gives them a huge addressable market for their same day – and even same hour – delivery options. And reduces a key advantage of stores – convenience and availability.
Another study shows US Department stores have reacted with much improved delivery options – but it looks like too little too late. In the UK we suspect there is a similar picture and we saw that Amazon claim to deliver around half their orders themselves as Royal Mail can’t cope with their whole volume.
No surprise that Google announce sites built using their AMP technology will do well in mobile search results. There is no change to the rankings algorithm but where two versions of a page exist the AMP will get priority. Already news stories in AMP appear at the top of search results and the speed of loading is a factor in rankings. And don’t forget Facebook now favour ads that link to faster pages
It’s not all doom and gloom in AdTech as anyone at DMexco last week will have witnessed. The IPO of The Trade Desk was a big success.
A perennial issue in digital is measurement and attribution – what caused what to happen. Facebook have a new way of tracking views – when someone installs an app without a Facebook click, they can look back at which ads were viewed in the previous 24 hours. This is progress but a function of walled gardens is that it’s hard to account for views of ads on other platforms
In the programmatic lexicon, new phrases keep popping up and we find many people, especially those removed from the day to day involvement, find it hard to keep up. So this explanation of Header Bidding is helpful.
With our interest in Location we are spending more time with key players in the Digital Out Of Home sector. So this look at how Programmatic is impacting DOOH is interesting. As is this talk to a Goldman Sachs event by one of the key people at Outfront – formerly known as CBS Outdoor.
How corporate investors are looking at AR & VR
Finally – the big players in digital advertising have come together to solve the problem of crap ads. With Google, Facebook, P&G, Unilever, GroupM, the IAB and many other key players The Coalition for Better Ads is a welcome sign that everyone recognizes the problem. The output of this coalition is going to be some new standards for everyone to adhere to.
But are new standards going to help? As we discussed at our breakfast on Bad Ads a few months ago, everyone can help now by refusing to run crap ads; publishers should say no and brands and agencies should refrain from intrusive formats, scripts that slow down loading times and ads that are irrelevant. And some frequency capping would help too.
All of this is possible now and despite all the noise about the problem we haven’t seen much change. The thing we keep stressing is that brands – and publishers – that deliver a better experience now, will gain competitive advantage. Because the chances are your competitors are rubbish at this stuff. What are you waiting for?
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